I got tagged with this meme by my friend Christine (almost the first line of a poem!!) at Smartmouth Mombie. It’s deceptively simple: As a mom-blogger, write about three things you do RIGHT as a parent.
Well, that’s not hard, I thought. I have such ridiculously high self-esteem that I can always think of things I’m good at. I was once at a church women’s retreat where we had to pair up and list things we liked about ourselves. While all around, women were moaning, “Oh, I don’t know, I can’t think of anything,” my partner and I had to be told when to stop as we kept thinking of more and more things! (I won’t reveal who my partner was on this occasion but if by chance she still reads my blog from the faraway land where she now lives, this would be a good time to de-lurk and say hi!!)
But I’ve discovered something interesting: everytime I think of something to do with my kids that I do right, I stop and qualify myself. “Well, I don’t do that right all the time — not in every situation!” or “Lots of moms I know are better at that than I am.” Parenthood is so full of pitfalls and possible failures that it can sabotage even my buoyant self-esteem. Most of the time I feel I’m the classic good-enough mom, doing generally more good than harm to my kids, but I’m always thinking of things I could do better. So at Christine’s behest, I will now try to think of things I do well — not perfectly, and not better than anyone else, but well.
1) Listening to my kids. Wow, these kids talk A LOT. Especially Emma. I feel like I spend 900% of my time listening, usually to trivia. And yes, I know there are times when I’m trying to do something else and not paying enough attention. But I do also do a lot of genuine listening, and responding, and I try to always be there when they have something important to talk about, as well as reciting the plots of recent TV shows they’ve seen. So hopefully they will continue to think of me as someone they can talk to when the issues get bigger and scarier.
2) Encouraging creativity. I do this in two ways. One is by creating a home environment (along with Jason) in which the kids see that creativity is valid and valued. They see me write, they hear us make music, they see friends and family being celebrated for their creative endeavours (it’s no coincidence that after Chris wrote a book the first thing he wanted to do was have a book launch). The second good thing I do in this area, ironically, is NOT be very creative about doing crafts and stuff with them. I know moms who do so many cool actual crafts with their kids and while that’s great and all, that is not my way. My way is to throw an armload of random art supplies on the dining room table and yell, “Craft time! Make something!!” I like to think that this has led them to trust their own instincts and be unafraid to try new things. I used this method as recently as Sunday when I dumped all my scrapbooking stuff on the table and said, “Make cards for Grammy and Aunt Gertie!” and they produced absolutely beautiful homemade cards. So far they are both artists, writers, and musicians, and I hope this never gets beaten out of them.
3) Introducing complex real-world issues in appropriate ways. There is nothing I won’t discuss with my kids if they bring it up. At their instigation — based on things they’ve seen and heard — we have talked about sex, drugs, war, death, why those little Iraqi girls in the picture are bleeding, the environment, crime, smoking, internet safety, comparative world religions, why our pastor things Harry Potter is a bad book and I think it’s a good one and how you can disagree with a person on some things but still worship with them and learn from them. I rarely initiate these conversations — by being approachable and a good listener and picking out the teachable moments, the conversations we need to have just happen naturally. I’m comfortable that their level of knowledge about most issues is age-appropriate — I think they are still innocent in all the important ways and yet not naive or overly sheltered for their age — and I think it’s because Jason and I have done a good job of creating an environment in which it’s safe to talk about all sorts of things and there are no taboo conversations. I do get a bit preachy sometimes, but the kids never fail to point that out and bring me back down to earth!
That was easier than I thought. I mean, the little voice in my head saying, “You’re not doing all those things right — all the time — and what about all the important things you’re not doing??” is still there, but at least I’ve tuned it out for a couple of minutes. It’s a great meme, Christine, and I’m enjoying reading some of the other bloggers’ posts on the subject, too!